An investigation of the relationship between student characteristics, the learning experience and academic achievement on an online distance learning MBA programme.
Jamieson, Barbara Mary
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The main purpose of this study is to develop and test a conceptual framework of the antecedents of academic achievement for students studying online. The study is essentially exploratory in nature and an adaptation of Biggs’ 3P (Biggs, 1993a) model provides the theoretical framework. A wide range of antecedent variables is considered, including individual student characteristics and behavioural aspects of studying online. Uniquely, the study positions developmental aspects of the student learning experience (deconstructed at course level using an eight level developmental hierarchy derived from Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom et al., 1956)) as an intermediate outcome. Regression models are calibrated to determine which factors influence both the student learning experience and academic achievement. Variation in the student learning experience (as an intermediate outcome) is explained by student satisfaction with course materials and certain individual student characteristics and behavioural aspects of online study. Disadvantaged students lack previous experience in the study of Economics; have certain learning styles (sensing and verbal); and in the online study context find it difficult both to interact with faculty and to work alone. In terms of academic achievement, the parsimonious model explains 48% of the variance in overall performance in the Economics exam. After student ability the next most important variables of significance relate to developmental aspects of the learning experience, specifically, the level of difficulty experienced both in applying theory to business problems and understanding numerical calculations. The policy implications of the findings are considered and specific recommendations are provided for the enhancement of Edinburgh Business School course resources. The research findings indicate that, in building a theoretical framework for online learning, there is merit in taking into account course-level developmental aspects of the student learning experience. As well as their significance in helping to explain variation in academic achievement, the insights gained on student learning facilitate the design and targeting of interventions to address specific educational needs. It is hoped that this approach may help to address some of the concerns that exist that, in education, technology is not always used in ways which enhance student learning.